Photo taken on Aug. 10, 2017 shows the general view of the fairgrounds of the Damascus International Fair in Damascus, capital of Syria. After a five-year pause, the Damascus International Fair, the Syrian economy's window to the world, is returning this month. It is a sign that the country's war is declining and reviving the economy, which hit rock bottom during the prolonged conflict, has become the focus of the government. Established in 1954, the fair's last edition was held in 2011, the first year of the Syrian war. In later years, the fair was suspended because of the war before the Syrian government decided to renew it as the fair will take place on Aug. 17 this year. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- After a five-year pause, the Damascus International Fair, the Syrian economy's window to the world, is returning this month.
It is a sign that the country's war is declining and reviving the economy, which hit rock bottom during the prolonged conflict, has become the focus of the government.
Established in 1954, the fair's last edition was held in 2011, the first year of the Syrian war. In later years, the fair was suspended because of the war before the Syrian government decided to renew it as the fair will take place on Aug. 17 this year.
LIFE BEATS BACK IN SYRIA
The message that the government wants to deliver is that "life is beating back in Syria," after years of bloody conflict, Fares Kartali, director of the General Establishment for Exhibitions and International Markets, told Xinhua on Thursday
Even though the war is still haunting Syria, it's not as chaotic as in the first years of it.
The Russian, U.S.-sponsored de-escalation zones, coupled with the cease-fire, have turned the situation for the better, particularly in the areas around the capital Damascus.
No more blind mortar shells are fired from the rebel-held part east of Damascus, as the major rebel groups have agreed to the cease-fire, which excludes the al-Qaeda-linked groups.
The government now seems ready to push the wheels of the economy which has taken a strong beating during the war.
Holding the 59th edition of the Damascus International Fair is a "strong indication of the beginning of the recovery of the Syrian economy," Industry Minister Ahmad Hamo was quoted by government-run Thawra newspaper as saying.
PREPARATIONS FOR FAIR
According to Kartali, work is now underway to prepare the Fair Ground, located near the Damascus International Airport south of the capital, for the upcoming event.
He noted that the sprawling Fair Ground, which covers an area of 1,200 square km, has never been targeted, even though many villages nearby had fallen to the rebels before the army recaptured them in early 2016.
Kartali said an area of more than 70 square km has been designated to host over 1,500 local and international companies taking part in the fair.
Workers were bustling in the 49 wings and sections of the fair ground, where some are planting greens, some decorating the structures, and others unloading equipment and goods from the trucks.
Moreover, Damascus is also witnessing busy maintenance works, with ways and streets leading to the the fair ground being paved and cleaned.
As for the security concerns foreign companies may have, Kartaly said the situation is now secure.
"The security situation in Syria is good and I need to assure all the companies which desire to take part that the situation in Syria is normal," he said.
On the military level, the Syrian army has been on a crushing offensive on the al-Qaeda-linked groups in the eastern countryside of Damascus, with daily shelling on Ayn Tarma and Jobar areas.
Military estimates suggest that the decision has been made to clear these areas of any threat, particularly after the de-escalation zones' deal, which excludes the al-Qaeda-linked group of Nusra Front and the allied Failaq al-Rahman, was reached.
The offensives and heavy shellings are expected to last a week, after which all threats to the capital will be eliminated.
The government is now focused on reviving the sluggish economy and pushing the reconstruction process by encouraging foreign companies to visit the country and make investments.
"Our fair this year will be the best to take place since the establishment of the Damascus International Fair in 1954," Kartali said.
After six years of war in Syria, the country's economy has become crippled with the wide-ranging U.S. and European sanctions against Bashar al-Assad's government.
The total economic losses so far are calculated at about 226 billion U.S. dollars, according to estimates published by the World Bank last month.
The report found that cumulative GDP losses since the war erupted "have been estimated at 226 billion U.S. dollars, about four times the Syrian GDP in 2010."
The effects will be felt for decades, as it's estimated that it would take 10 to 15 years for Syria's per capita GDP to return to pre-war levels.